The History of Leith

October 25, 2010

Leith Sea Dogs-Sir Andrew Wood Part 4

We have seen that Sir Andrew Wood had much to do with the construction of the king’s dockyards at Leith and at Newhaven, and with the building of that navy in which James IV. was so interested. It was he who superintended the construction and equipment of the Great Michael, the largest ship built either in England or Scotland up to that time. She was the special pride of the Leithers, who looked on her as one of the wonders of the age, as indeed she was. When the Great Michael was launched at Newhaven in 1511, Sir Andrew was made
her quartermaster or principal captain, with Robert Barton under him as skipper or second captain.

source-The Story of Leith
On the outbreak of the Flodden campaign the command of this great vessel, the flagship of the fleet, was by a fatal error given, not to a skilful seaman like Sir Andrew Wood, or to Robert Barton, but to the Earl of Arran, as in feudal countries like Scotland any great office of state like that of Lord High Admiral had, in accordance with the customs of the age, to belong to the great feudal aristocracy. The fleet was as handsomely equipped as any British squadron of the present day, the complement of men including chaplains and barbers,” who in Scotland at that time, as everywhere else in Europe, combined with that trade the profession of surgeon, their guild being known as the “Incorporation of Chirurgeons and Barboures.” The barber’s pole with a brass bleeding-dish hanging from near its end was the sign of the Surgeon-Barbers’ Guild in olden days.
From the date of this expedition we hear little more of Sir Andrew Wood. The great sailor died two years later, in 1515. He was buried in the family aisle in the ancient parish church of Largo, where his tomb is marked by a plain inscribed stone let into the floor. He has often been confused with his eldest son, who bore the same name as himself, with the result that Sir Andrew has been represented as living to a very old age. To this confusion, together with the fact that the remains of some great ditch, moat, or other earthwork seem to
lead from his now ruined tower at Largo in the direction of the village, we owe the picturesque legend that, when enfeebled by an old age he never reached, he caused a canal to be formed from his castle to the parish church which stands at the entrance to the ancient avenue,
and that on this canal he used to sail in state to church in his barge, rowed by old pensioners with whom he had fought so many brave rights aboard that most storied ship in Scottish history, the Yellow Carvel.

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